When you shower, always remember to wash your ears. It’s hard not to say that in your “parenting” voice. Maybe you even recall getting that advice as a kid. That’s the type of memory that can take you back to simpler times as you wrap yourself in the nostalgia of childhood.
But it’s also good advice. Out-of-control earwax buildup can cause a substantial number of issues, particularly for your hearing. Even worse, this organic compound can harden in place making it difficult to clean out. Bottom line, you’ll be best off keeping those ears clear.
Excessive earwax? Eww!
Okay, earwax is not the most pleasing of substances. And we’re not going to attempt to change your mind about that. But earwax does serve a purpose. Earwax is manufactured by glands inside of your ears and is then pushed out when you chew in order to keep your ears free of dust and dirt.
Essentially, the correct amount of earwax can help keep your ears clean and healthy. However counterintuitive it seems, the reality is that earwax itself isn’t a sign of poor hygiene.
The troubles start when your ears produce too much earwax. And, naturally, it can sometimes be a bit difficult to tell when a healthy quantity of earwax begins to outweigh its usefulness (literally).
What does accumulated earwax do?
So, what happens as a consequence of excess earwax? Earwax that gets out of hand and, over time, builds up, can lead to a number of issues. Here are a few:
- Infection: Excess earwax can lead to ear infections. If fluid builds up, it can become trapped behind impacted earwax.
- Earache: One of the most common signs of excess earwax is an earache. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt that bad, and other times it can really hurt. This usually occurs when earwax is causing pressure in places where it shouldn’t be.
- Tinnitus: Tinnitus is a condition where you hear a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ears. Tinnitus symptoms can appear or get worse when earwax is built up inside your ear.
- Dizziness: Your ability to maintain balance depends heavily on your inner ear. You can suffer from episodes of dizziness and balance problems when your inner ear is having trouble.
These are just a few. Neglected earwax can trigger painful headaches. If you wear hearing aids, excess earwax can impede them. This means that you may think your hearing aids are having problems when the real problem is a little bit too much earwax.
Can your hearing be impacted by earwax?
The short answer is yes. One of the most typical issues connected with excess earwax is hearing loss. When earwax builds up in the ear canal it causes a blockage of sound causing a form of hearing loss called conductive hearing loss. The problem usually clears up when the earwax is extracted, and normally, your hearing will go back to normal.
But if the buildup becomes extreme, permanent damage can appear. And tinnitus is also usually temporary but when earwax blockage lingers, permanent damage can cause tinnitus to become a lasting condition.
Prevention, treatment, or both?
If you want to protect your hearing, then it seems logical to keep an eye on your earwax. In many cases, earwax buildup is caused not by excessive production but by improper cleaning (a cotton swab, for example, will often compact the earwax in your ear instead of removing it, eventually causing a blockage).
Frequently, the wax has gotten hard, dense, and unable to clear without professional treatment. The sooner you get that help, the sooner you’ll be able to hear again (and the sooner you’ll be able to start cleaning your ears the right way).